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hope in the mercy of God. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy," Psa. cxlvii. 11. The latter part of the text is an explanation of the former; as if the psalmist had said, Those are the men that fear the Lord, even those that hope in his mercy; for true fear produceth hope in God's mercy. And it is further manifest thus :—Fear, true fear of God inclineth the heart to a serious inquiry after that way of salvation which God himself hath prescribed; now the way that God hath appointed, by the which the sinner is to obtain the salvation of his soul, is his mercy as set forth in the word; and godly fear hath special regard to the word. To this way, therefore, the sinner with this godly fear submits his soul, rolls himself upon it, and so is delivered from that death into which others, for want of this fear of God, do headlong fall.
It is, as I also hinted before, the nature of godly fear to be very much putting the soul upon the inquiry which is, and which is not the thing approved of God, and accordingly to embrace it, or shun it. Now, I say, this fear, having put the soul upon a strict and serious inquiry after the way of salvation, at last it finds it to be by the mercy of God in Christ; therefore this fear putteth the soul upon hoping also in him for eternal life and blessedness; by which hope he doth not only secure his soul, but becomes a person in whom God delights. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy," Psa. cxlvii. 11.
Besides, this godly fear carrieth in it self-evidence that the state of the sinner is happy, because possessed with this happy grace. Therefore, as John saith, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren," 1 John iii. 14. So here, "The Lordtaketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." If I fear God, and if my fearing of him is a thing in which he taketh such pleasure, then may I boldly venture to roll myself for eternal life into the bosom of his mercy, which is Christ.
This fear also produceth hope; if, therefore, poor sinner, thou knowest thyself to be one that is possessed with this fear of God, suffer thyself to be persuaded therefore to hope in the mercy of God for salvation, for the Lord takes pleasure in thee; and it delights him to see thee hope in his mercy.
12. There floweth from this godly fear of God, an honest and conscientious use of all those means which God hath ordained that we should be conversant in for our attaining salvation. Faith and hope in God's mercy secure our justification and hope, and, as you have heard, they flow from this fear. But now, besides faith and hope, there is a course of life in those things in which God hath ordained us to have our conversation, without which there is no eternal life. "Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life," Rom. vi. 22 ; and again, "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord," Heb. xii. 14. Not that faith and hope are deficient, if they be right, but they are both of them counterfeit when not attended with a reverent use of all the means: upon the reverent use of which the soul is put by this grace of fear. "Wherefore, my beloved," said Paul, "as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," Phil. ii. 12.
There is a faith and hope of mercy, that may de
ceive a man, because they are alone, and not attended with those companions that accompany salvation; but now this godly fear carries in itself, not only a moving of the soul to faith and hope in God's mercy, but an earnest provocation to the holy and reverent use of all the means that God has ordained for a man to have his conversation in, in order to his eternal salvation.
"Work out your salvation with fear." Not that work is meritorious, or such that can purchase eternal life; for eternal life is obtained by hope in God's mercy; but this hope, if it be right, is attended with this godly fear, which fear putteth the soul upon a diligent use of all those means that may tend to the strengthening of hope, and so to the making of us holy in all manner of conversation, that we may be "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." For hope purifieth the heart, if fear of God be its companion, and so maketh a man a vessel of mercy prepared unto glory. Paul bids Timothy to flee pride, covetousness, doting about questions, and the like, and to " follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life," 1 Tim. vi. 11, 12.
So Peter says, "Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.—Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. i. 5—11. The sum of all which is, that which was mentioned before, namely, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. For none of these things can be conscientiously done but by and with the help of this blessed grace of fear.
13. There flows from this godly fear a great delight in the holy commands of God; that is, a delight to be conformable unto them. "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments," Psa. cxii. 1. This confirmeth that which was said before, namely, that this fear provoketh to a holy and reverent use of the means; for that cannot be, when there is not an holy, yea, a great delight in the commandments. Wherefore this fear maketh the sinner to abhor that which is sin, because that is contrary to the object of his delight. A man cannot delight himself at the same time in things directly opposite one to another, as sin, and the holy commandment are; therefore Christ saith of the servant, he " cannot love God and mammon;" if he cleaves to the one, he must hate and despise the other: there cannot, at the same time, be service to both, because that they are at enmity one with the other: so are sin and the commandment; therefore, if a man delighteth himself in the commandment, he hateth that which is opposite, which is sin; how much more when he greatly delighteth in the commandment!
Now, this holy fear of God taketh the heart and affections from sin, and setteth them upon the holy commandment; therefore such a man is rightly esteemed blessed. For no profession makes a man blessed, but that which is accompanied with an alienation of the heart from sin; nor doth any thing do that when this holy fear is wanting. It is from this fear, then, that love to and delight in the holy commandment flow; and so by that the sinner is kept from those falls and dangers of miscarrying that other professors are so subject to: he greatly delights in the commandment.
14. There floweth from this fear of God, enlargement of heart. "Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged," Isa. lx. 5. "Thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged;" enlarged to God-ward, enlarged to his ways, enlarged to his holy people, enlarged in love after the salvation of others. Indeed, when this fear of God is wanting, though the profession be ever so famous, the heart is shut up, and straitened, and nothing is done in that princely free spirit, which is called "the spirit of the fear of the Lord," Isa. xi. 2. But with grudging, legally, or with desire of vain glory; this enlargedness of heart is wanting, for that flows from this fear of the Lord.
Thus have I shown you what this fear of God is, what it flows from, and also what flows from it.